National Alliance on Mental Illness
  • 13-Apr-2023 to Until Filled (EST)
  • NAMI HelpLine
  • USA
  • Internship/Volunteer

Please note: This is a listing for an unpaid internship position, and you must be a currently enrolled student with an academic advisor to be eligible. If you are not a student, please apply using our volunteer application.

SUMMER 2023: May 2023 - September 2023

  • APPLICATION period: January 9, 2023 - April 17, 2023

FALL/WINTER 2023-2024: September 2023 - January 2024

  • APPLICATION period: May 15, 2023 - August 21, 2023

SPRING 2024: January 2024 - May 2024

  • APPLICATION period: September 11, 2023 - December 18, 2023

Our team reviews applications during each application period for the corresponding service periods. If you apply between application periods, we will consider your application once the next period opens. Alternatively, applications for our HelpLine Specialist Volunteer position are open at any time.

Are you interested in making a meaningful difference in people's lives?

The NAMI HelpLine is contacted over 75,000 times a year by people across the U.S. who are affected by mental health conditions and are in need of help. HelpLine Specialists provide a vital service to the NAMI community by responding with empathy to inquiries by phone, SMS/chat, and social media posts, and by providing valuable information about mental health conditions and treatment options, NAMI education and support programs, and other mental health resources.

The HelpLine Specialist Experience

NAMI HelpLine Specialists help individuals and families improve their lives and advance recovery by listening to their concerns and connecting them with essential resources and services. They extend empathy, understanding, respect and emotional support to everyone contacting the NAMI HelpLine. In return, Specialists develop a deep understanding of the mental health landscape, mental health conditions, treatment options and recovery strategies. They will also experience the appreciation and gratitude expressed by the individuals, families, and caregivers they serve.

The NAMI HelpLine recognizes the value of lived experience as it expands one's capacity for empathy, motivates a sincere desire to help others, and at times provides valuable perspective. However, HelpLine service often involves triggering conversations and topics. A Specialist's mental health must be solid with well-established treatment and/or self-help strategies and necessary support. If at any time in the interview, onboarding or during service a Specialist or staff member becomes aware that providing HelpLine services could or is having a negative impact on a Specialist or that Help Seekers are not being well served the Specialist will be asked to step-away from service.

Serving Remotely

Currently, all HelpLine Specialists are working from their homes, apartments or dorms and connecting with help seekers using NAMI's cloud-based communications platform by computer-based phone, SMS/chat, and email. Volunteers are required to have access to a computer with the most-recent operating system (Mac, PC or Linux) as well as high-speed internet.


Working with help seekers on the NAMI HelpLine is extremely rewarding, and yet at times, challenging. This requires a commitment to complete about 21 hours of training within a three-week onboarding period designed to prepare you to confidently and positively address the diverse needs presented by help seekers. Throughout your onboarding experience, you will complete rewarding online instructional content, interactive exercises, knowledge checks and a final test prior to joining as a member of the NAMI HelpLine Specialist Team.

Minimum Time Commitment Requirements

Please note the following time commitment requirements:

A minimum of two, 4-hour shifts per week for a minimum duration of four months. Your four-month commitment serving on the HelpLine begins following the completion of training and onboarding.

All HelpLine Specialist shifts are fulfilled during regular HelpLine hours within:

Shift #1: 10am - 2pm; Shift #2: 2 - 6pm; or Shift #3: 6 - 10pm

Mon-Fri, Eastern Standard Time (EST).

Ongoing Support

The NAMI HelpLine team strives to create a supportive "virtual" community for our volunteers! Ongoing support is provided throughout each shift via cloud-based technology and a direct messaging social media platform, and our staff participate daily in two available mid-day Zoom meetings (interns and volunteers attend at least one meeting per week) to share experiences and information, and to answer questions. In addition, our staff routinely observe and provide coaching support throughout each HelpLine Specialist's time on HelpLine.

Professional Qualifications:

  • Currently enrolled student
  • A student or mental health professional, and/or someone with lived experience - either as a person with a mental health condition experiencing recovery, or as someone caring for a loved one living with a mental health condition.
  • Excellent communication skills (oral and written), particularly in listening and ability to convey a respectful, empathetic tone, over the phone, email, or SMS/chat communication.
  • Analytical ability with problem-solving skills and resourcefulness for assessing a help seeker's needs and finding correct resources in a timely manner.
  • Basic knowledge of mental health conditions, treatments, recovery, and mental health care systems with an interest in learning more.
  • Ability to conduct basic internet research quickly while simultaneously managing a phone conversation or SMS/Chat session.
  • Verbal bilingual English/Spanish ability strongly welcomed.

Personal Qualities:

  • Demonstrated reliability, professionalism, and punctuality.
  • Respect and compassion for people affected by mental health conditions with desire to help
  • Ability to manage emotionally stressful situations with positive spirit and open-mindedness.
  • Passion to learn about mental health conditions, resources, and behavioral health system.
  • Willingness to take initiative to seek help when needed, and ability to accept and implement constructive feedback.
  • Maturity and patience to communicate effectively with people from diverse backgrounds and experiences while demonstrating empathy to facilitate respectful dialogue with callers experiencing emotional distress or active psychosis.
National Alliance on Mental Illness
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